Mahathir’s veiled but unmistakable attack on democracy and human rights as part of a long-standing Jewish conspiracy not only a great disservice to the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi but also to the legion of advocates of democracy and human rights, whether in Malaysia, the Islamic world or outside
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Paragraph 51 of the 59-paragraph speech by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, at the opening of the 10th Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit at Putrajaya Convention Centre this morning is most shocking.
This is because Mahathir veiled but unmistakable attack on democracy and human rights as part of a long-standing Jewish conspiracy is not only a great disservice to the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi who was given the signal honour by the Norwegian Nobel Committee only last Friday but also to the legion of advocates of democracy and human rights, whether in Malaysia, the Islamic world or outside
This is what Mahathir said in his speech at the OIC Summit opening this morning:
“51. The enemy will probably welcome these proposals and we will conclude that the promoters are working for the enemy. But think. We are up against a people who think. They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also.”
Instead of leading the Islamic world to welcome and honour Shirin Ebadi as the first Muslim woman, third Muslim and first Iranian in 102 years to win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for her activism for democracy, human rights, women’s rights and children’s rights, Mahathir has done the exact opposite – to lend support to the hostile reaction by the hardline Iranian clerics who denounced Ebadi’s Nobel Peace Prize as against the ideals of the 1979 Islamic revolution and a political tool of the West to interfere in the internal affairs of the country and to lay the ground for a general disparagement of the award by leaders of Islamic countries outside Iran.
This is the first time that any leader from Malaysia or the OIC countries has alleged that democracy and human rights are the invention and conspiracy of the Jewish lobby to advance the Zionist cause, which would imply that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for the advancement of the cause of peace, democracy and human rights or any commitment to these ideals as allied to such ignoble ends.
I do not know whether the Palestinians and the Egyptians will agree, as the first Muslim to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1978 and the second Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, in 1994.
Ebadi was selected from a field of 165 candidates for the prize, among them Pope John Paul II and former Czech President Vaclav Havel who was a human rights activist during the communist regime. The Oslo-based Nobel Committee awarded the prize to her with the following citation, “for her efforts in democracy and human rights”.
A lawyer and one of Iran’s most prominent human rights defenders campaigning on behalf of women, children and outspoken Iranian dissidents, Ebadi had pursued her human rights activities within an Islamic framework. She once said: “My problem is not with Islam. It is with the culture of patriarchy.” For 20 years, she has been putting out the message, it is possible to be Muslim and have laws that respect human rights. She said: “What is worse is that people who have power in Muslim countries, violate human rights in the name of Islam.”
In his speech diagnosing the ills and weaknesses of the Islamic world, Mahathir said that Islam is not wrong but the interpretations of the religion that are wrong. Yet he has given an interpretation of Islam which is predicated on the premise that it is not compatible with democracy and human rights – worse, that democracy and human rights are the invention of the Jewish or Zionists to perpetuate their control and hegemony over the rest of the world.
Was Mahathir seeking, with his highly controversial reference, seeking to indirectly express his sympathy and support for Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah Abdul Aziz, the de facto ruler, following the initial stirrings for democracy and human rights in Saudi Arabia after the unprecedented protest by hundreds of Saudis in the streets of capital Riyadh two days ago, demanding for greater political reforms and human rights?
Mahathir owes Malaysians, the Islamic countries and the world at large a proper clarification of the full import of his description of democracy and human rights as the invention and conspiracy of Jewish or Zionist lobby as well on the issue of the first Muslim woman and Iranian Nobel Peace Laureatte, Shirin Ebadi.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman